Cover Image: Great Circle

Great Circle

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Member Reviews

Yes, I assigned a feature story on this book and author that ran in more than 12 newspapers. Here is a link to the piece:
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I loved much of this book even though it was far too long.  By the end, I just wanted it to be over!  I loved Marian and Jamie, but Marian's story just ran too long with too many different turns and it became a bit overdone.  That being said, this book was also a surprisingly quick read for me.  Maggie Shipstead is a gifted writer and I would definitely read more books by her.

I loved the historical aspects of the story and I'm fascinated by aviation, so Marian was an intriguing and interesting character.  I also loved Jamie, Marian's twin brother.  Though they were different, their bond spanned time.  I didn't care for Hadley's portion of the story.  The whole Hollywood scene didn't really fit with the rest of the story and wasn't interesting to me.  I'm glad Hadley's portion was relatively short compared to Marian's.

I'm having a hard time finding books I love this year and while this wasn't quite my favorite, it was very good.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read Great Circle. I had such high hopes for it and while I do believe the writing is strong, this book is very long. In my opinion, it is too long. I also did not understand why there was such a focus on Marian's parents in the beginning. I also did not connect with Hadley and did not care to see where her storyline went. I really wanted to read the entire book but it's just not going to happen at this time.
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Totally enjoyed this book that told two storie that were related. . It intertwined historical figures sometimes in thr narrative which made it interesting. There were a couple surprises ar the end. Very enjoyable read.
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While long - and at first a little slow to evolve - it is a great historical fiction.

A little too long - but so worth sticking with it.  Characters are so well developed and you feel for everything that happens to each of them.  

Definitely for those strong women that love to read about other strong women.
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Truly an epic story that parallels a daring female aviator Marian Graves in the 1940s=1950s with a young self-destructive Hollywood actress, Hadley Baxter, slated to play her in the movie biopic under production. At times I felt the story was slow, laden with more descriptive detail for various backstories and secondary characters, but somehow it all is pieced together like an impossible-to-complete jigsaw puzzle by the very end. A creative and unexpected ending makes this is a great summer read. Highly recommend.
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Throughout history, and even in modern times, it's been hard for women to get respect and recognition in spheres typically dominated and controlled by men. In Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead has brought to life the character of Marian Graves, who was raised by her uncle in Montana. She becomes fascinated with airplanes and flight after a pair of barnstormers bring their show through town. She drops out of school at 14 when a bootlegger offers to pay for flight lessons and offers her a job flying in booze from Canada. This "deal with the devil" (so to speak) locks her into a connection with a dangerous man. She dreams of circumnavigating the globe by flying her airplane north/south across both of the poles.

We also meet a troubled actress Hadley, who came to fame in a teen sitcom and has since gone down the path of sex, drugs, and recklessness followed by many child stars. She gains more fame when se is cast in a paranormal romance franchise of films that has a base of obsessed fans who write fan fiction not just about her character but about her too. After a scandal, she is removed from that franchise and it told she will never work in Hollywood again. But, she is offered a role playing Marian in feature film and jumps at the chance.

This was the story of two young women, both being controlled and having their careers hindered by men. Both women fight to follow their dreams and live their lives. I liked the blending of historical fiction and a modern story that has echoes of the #metoo movement.

What to listen to while reading...
Sit Next to Me by Foster the People
Off the Radar by Noga Erez
Child Star by The Unicorns
Aeroplane by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Hollow Life by Coast Modern
Dark Days by Local Natives
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Apologies to the publisher for not finishing this book yet! I had a death in the family, followed by two new diagnoses of my own, followed by an interstate move. I really enjoyed the first part of the book I read and don’t want to rush through the rest at a time when I won’t be able to enjoy it. I look forward to reading the rest soon!
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A long but worthy chronicle of Marion Graves an aviator. Through childhood to her death the story unfolds interspersed with chapters told from the point of view of the actress playing the part of Graves. There is mystery in the perception and the reality. The author adds an air of mystery and history along with memorable characters to make this a satisfying read.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
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Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead sounded so good in theory. Great reviews and a wonderful storyline. Marian Graves always dreamed of being a female pilot. Marian and her twin, Jamie’s part of the story was pretty fascinating. But the other timeline about Hadley, a current day actress preparing to play Marian in a movie, really was a drag. I found her story dull and unnecessary. Every time I came to her part of the story, I groaned. I think this would have been a fantastic book without the dual timeline but because of it, I’m really stretching to give it 3 stars. As always thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc. What a perfect summer read.. Loved the characters. Author did a great job with this story. I did not want to stop reading...
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This is a sweeping saga about the life of a very singular and spirited woman and her quest to fly a great circle around the world from pole to pole. It's a big book, rich in detail, beautifully written and hugely absorbing for those who enjoy good historical fiction. 

Marion and Jamie Graves are twins, dramatically rescued as babies from a sinking ship captained by their father in 1914. With their mother drowned and their father disappeared, they are sent to live in Montana with their bachelor uncle Wallace, a kindly but dissolute artist who allows them to roam the nearby mountains and forests with their part native Indian friend Caleb, more or less bringing themselves up while Wallace paints and gambles away any money he earns. In 1927, Marion's burning desire to learn to fly is ignited by visiting barnstormers who take her up for a brief flight. With no money for flying lessons, she starts working for a bootlegger and slowly starts saving for lessons. However, impatient with her slowly growing funds she eventually acquiesces to wealthy rancher and liquor smuggler Barclay Macqueen’s offer to pay for her lessons, little understanding what he will expect in return. 

The novel follows Marion as she learns to fly, works for Barclay, moves to Alaska and then during WW2 is recruited to fly in the UK delivering planes for the airforce. Eventually she teams up with a navigator to attempt to fly the great circle around the poles, leaving Auckland on the last day of 1949. Marion's story is also tied up with that of her brother Jamie, a talented artist and that of their friend Caleb, who will drift in and out of Marion's life. Also interwoven with Marion's story is that of a movie about her life being made in LA in 2014, starring a young actress called Hadley Baxter. 

Throughout the novel, the author liberally sprinkles in details of milestones in flight reached by other pilots, particularly female ones. Marion’s character feels very much like one of those pioneering women, a strong clear-headed woman who knows what she wants and won’t let patriarchal society stand in her way of being who she wants to be and more importantly having the freedom to fly. I loved Marion’s character and the depth the author brought to her as well as depicting society’s attitudes to women during this period.  

Hadley on the other hand was more difficult to empathise with. She’s depicted as a shallow Hollywood star who only agreed to act in the movie after being fired, following a drunken one-night stand, destroying the image of her character in a popular series. Early in the book, her role seems to be superfluous and intrusive to the main story. However, later in the novel when Hadley becomes interested in Marion’s life and what happened on her great circle flight, her role in the narrative becomes more important. 

This is a big book (600+ pages) and it does take a little while to get in to, but I found it well worth the effort for the fascinating story that unfolded.
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A magnificent work of storytelling. Shipstead’s slab of a book is full of pithy characters and observations. Its modes can be original, its energy inexhaustible. Is it too long? Perhaps. Yet the central character, her contemporary alter ego, and the ancillary figures are all strongly depicted with back stories worth the following. This is a novel in which to immerse oneself, simply for the pleasure of super-competent narrative.
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Great Circle is a wonderful book. I love books about strong women. I will be doing this for my book club pick. There is so much to talk about.
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The Great Circle follows to protagonists roughly a century apart in time. Marian Graves, raised with her twin brother by an uncle in the early 1900s, has dreams of becoming a successful pilot… a career that will eventually lead to her attempting a circumnavigation of the world going through the North and South poles. Hadley Baxter is a Hollywood actress, and, after some twists and turns in her career, she’s cast to play Marian in a film that focuses on Marian’s circumnavigation journey.

The story switches between the two characters throughout the book, as Hadley’s story in the current times intertwines and mirrors Marian’s life decades before. All in all, I enjoyed the stories of these women, and I admired their determination as they were faced with personal and professional challenges. While the story was interesting, the book felt drawn out and longer than it needed to be. It wasn’t a quick read for me, and I found it easy to set aside for a few hours; it just didn’t keep my attention in the same way that some other books had.

That being said, this is perfect for those who don’t mind historical fiction at an epic length. The descriptions of flying and the writing style in general are good, even with the length of the book. I found that I appreciated the book and the story as a whole more once I’d finished.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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This fictional book about a female pilot, her navigator, and the people involved in making a movie about her had a very slow start but it was worth it to hang on.  The characters were rich and well written.  I was invested in the book and, even though it was long, missed them like old friends when it ended.  Great choice if you are interested in historical fiction, flying, or just looking for a well-written story.
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I am not going to finish this book. When each new character is introduced by detailing his or her sexual exploits, this is not the book for me. 

I was hoping to read solely about female pilots and if the book had been solely about that, I would have continued my reading. Unfortunately, I felt that the poor behavior of men does not excuse the poor behavior of woman. 

Definitely a miss for me!
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While a story about “the unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life” sounds promising, if I had known the book was a 600 page brick, I would have reconsidered accepting the ARC. I’m not against an epic story, but I’ve found it to be a rare book that justifies so many pages. 

This one is way too detailed with extraneous information, and confusing time jumps of sometimes mere months, sometimes years, and sometimes, inexplicably, years + months as in “4 years and nine months later”. It’s unclear why this device was used.

Finally, I’m not interested in reading about the sexual exploits, abuse, and incest. 

Many readers have loved this book, but, sadly,  it is not for me.
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Great Circle

Rating: 4/5🌟

Simply one of the best books I’ve read all year. 

Sweeping across years and continents, Great Circle follows the lives of twin brother and sister Marian Graves. Told partially in the present tense by actress Hadley Baxter, who is slated to play Marian and by the twins themselves, Great Circle is an homage  to the first waves of independent women in the US, especially the ones who longed to be pilots.

Following Marian from birth through Prohibition based Montana, to the busy cities of New York and London, Shipstead’s deliciously entangled plot lines are a beautiful epic for the reader chasing adventure. 

I truly loved this book - it’s a top contender for favorite book of 2021. I would have loved to see more character development on Hadley, or some better resolution in seeing her story come full circle. I appreciated the way that Shipstead brought Marian to life, her complexity as a woman not tied to marriage or anyone but herself.

The freedom that Maggie Shipstead gave her characters to explore, grow, love and hurt was just incredibly beautiful. Highly recommend! 

Thank you to the author, NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for the ARC!

Read if you like:
+ Amelia Earhart
+ Generational storylines  
+ Old Hollywood
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At 608 pages, this is not a short novel at all, but that didn’t stop me from absolutely devouring it in just 24 hours. It’s been a long time since a book grabbed me like that.

Great Circle is a sweeping saga, with interrelated stories taking place over more than a century and all around the globe. It’s primarily the story of the life of Marian Graves, a brave female aviator, and modern-day celebrity actress Hadley Baxter, who is cast to play Marian is a movie about her disappearance while trying to circumnavigate the planet. The book definitely seems to spend more time on Marian’s story, including additional stories about her twin brother, Jamie, and that’s just fine with me. It’s about dreams, love, passions, family, adventure, and so much more, and it took me places I hadn’t expected at all.

This was my first experience with Maggie Shipstead’s writing and I am well and truly impressed. The careful plotting, descriptively evocative writing, and fantastically developed characters hooked me from the start and kept me enthralled. I adore Marian, Jamie, and Caleb, and I even liked Hadley’s story. Parts of this book just about destroyed me, and the ending was completely unexpected and a little bit mind-blowing.

I highly recommend this gorgeous novel to those who enjoy really good historical fiction. I did an e-book/audiobook combo, since I couldn’t bear to put it down when I couldn’t sit to read, and I can also vouch for the very well-done audiobook. I’m definitely going looking for more by Shipstead.

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for my ARC copy in exchange for this honest review.

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